I love Reykjavik! The city is quite small compared to other capital cities, but the vibe is excellent. You can see Reykjavik in a day, but I would recommend doing it over 2 days, so you’ll have more time to explore the streets, architecture, museums, sights and enjoy yourself at the some of the city’s cafes.
Here is a list of recommendations and great ideas on how to spend your time in Reykjavik:
The things marked with * are sights that I haven’t experienced myself yet, but have had recommended to me.
1. Visit Perlan
Perlan is a really cool museum that brushes up your geography lessons before you head out to see glaciers, ice caves and waterfalls. I can especially recommend the exhibit about glaciers, which i really cool and interactive.
It has a great observation deck (you have to pay a small entrance fee, but I think it’s worth it), an ice cave (!) and a nice restaurant and café on top in the dome. Be sure to get a coffee and enjoy the view here!
I recommend checking out Perlan before you start exploring Icelandic nature. It gives you really great knowledge about nature and geography that will make you nature sight seeing so much more interesting.
2. Visit Hallgrimskirkja
One of Reykjaviks landmarks is the iconic Hallgrimskirkja. Take the elevator to the top (for a small fee) – the view is really great.
3. Walk the streets of downtown Reykjavik
You can go on a free, guided tour around the city, where they tell you about the various aspects and history of Reykjavik or you can walk around on your own.
Be sure to check out the area around Laugavegur – you’ll find plenty of shops and cafés there. Parallel to this street you’ll find Hverfisgata, which I really like too. It’s much less touristy! In general be sure to check out the smaller streets adjacent to Laugavegur.
Reykjavik has a lot of great and colorful street art to explore, so take your time when you walk around the streets.
4. Visit Harpa
Harpa is a concert hall and is quite famous for its architecture. Check out if there are any shows or concerts you want to see while you’re in town. Whatson.is has a great overview of cultural happenings in town.
5. Whales of Iceland museum*
In Iceland you can go whale watching. Rumor has it that Húsavík located along the northern shore of Iceland is the best place to spot whales. In Reykjavik’s Whale of Iceland museum you get great insight about these amazing creatures. After visiting the museum check out the old harbor – it’s right around the corner.
Other museums in Reykjavik that I’ve been recommended by local guides are:
- The Settlement Exhibition – which tells you all about the Viking settlers
- The National Museum of Iceland
6. Get a hotdog
Hotdogs are basically the unofficial national dish in Iceland. According to the locals the best place to get one is at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (translates to “The cities best hotdogs”). There will probably be a line, but wait for it – you can’t go to Reykjavik and not have a hotdog.
Looking for more tips on what and where to eat in Reykjavik? Check out my Icelandic Food Guide.
7. See The Sun Voyager
The Sun Voyager is another famous landmark in Reykjavik. The sculpture is located by the sea and has breathtaking mountains in its background.
Ps. If you want to go for a run the road along the coast is a quite scenic route on sunny days.
8. Walk around Tjörnin
Tjörnin is the large pond located in the center of Reykjavik. It’s a great location for a run or walk – or to sit and soak up some sun if you’re in luck with the weather.
9. Soak at Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach*
Nauthólsvík is a beach near Reykjavik and there you’ll find a man made geothermal pool where you can soak any time of year. In summer it’s free and in winter you’ll have to pay a small fee to use it.
10. Second Hand shopping
Kolaportið is an indoor flea market located close to the harbor. Here you can find all sorts of pre-owned items – and (honestly) a lot of junk too. Kolaportið can be a good place to find that home knitted Icelandic sweater that you always wanted. In my opinion you’ll have to be the flea market-type to love this place – you’ll find some treasures, but a lot of junk too.
Ps. The flea market is only open on weekends.
If you are in town longer…
… I absolutely recommend that you go on one of the many full day excursions to experience some of Iceland’s magnificent nature. Check out whatson.is to see the many options. For inspiration check out my 4 day itinerary for Iceland.
Also, you might consider visiting The Blue Lagoon. However, for this one you’ll need to make a reservation some time before visiting.
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